I was late getting to the set this morning because I had to stop off and answer some emails from PSU. When I got there, I bumped into Chad as I was coming out of the elevator and he took me aside for a little chat. He was very gentle. He was a little embarrassed. The bottom line, they were afraid the actors might be a little uncomfortable with me watching them shoot the morgue scene.
I'm not sore. It's a tough one. It's based on my poem, The Morgue, and it's one of the two or three harshest scenes in the script.
So I'm down the hall in one of the university computer labs (wow! EKU has invested in some nice equipment) waiting for them to wrap so we can drive out to the falls for this afternoon's shoot.
Here's the poem:
In the room where I walked as quietly as I could, afraid any sudden noise
might precipitate his collapse, I found my brother was still beautiful.
All afternoon, riding to the morgue, I fought the image of him, swollen,
his flesh like dough that's risen too long, become too light to support its own weight.
The mortician, disapproving of my insistence on seeing my brother
before taking care of business, promised no sign of his `ordeal'
still marred the body, a little bruise maybe, on his throat, where the hook
had caught and dragged him to the surface, and nothing else. Unveiled,
the traces of all his smiling still pulled at the corners of his mouth, for a moment,
I thought how my mother would look on her youngest child, in his coffin,
and know that in life, his smile had been effortless, the natural lay of his face.
But across the sterile basement from where the tips of his hair soothed an illusion
of living into my palm, across the room from where I bent, pressing my ear
to his chest, feeling nothing, except his awful solidity, the chill of his skin,
his hand, nerveless and so much heavier in death, beyond all these things
I glimpsed the slender black hose as it lay draped on a hook, its dull metal spout
blurred by a single thumbprint. This was the hose the man had used to spray
the mud from between my brother's toes, from the creases in his lips, his teeth
and the folds beneath his tongue. This was the hose that washed his hair, the palms
of his hands, so that on seeing his first dead body, his brother would not know
that this had been a filthy death. This was the hose that rinsed the backs of his thighs,
scoured the debris from his ears and his lashes and his clean white ankles
so that I would not see how he had suffered in the dark water, how his cries had broken
on the hard black shore, how his lungs were soothed with damp leaves, mud
and the sluggish silence of his own isolation. I tried to turn around
in the basement room, to tell the mortician that he had done nice work,
but by then, vomit had pooled in my shirt pockets and on the clean, well-mopped
floor of the basement morgue and in my brother's open, immaculate hand.